Success as a safety professional depends on many things. One must have a myriad of soft skills and technical knowledge to succeed in this field. A career in workplace safety is dynamic and can be demanding. Individuals in this field must make self-development a priority if they want to be effective in their roles.
This post defines what success actually means in a safety role and provides tips to help ensure you are a more effective safety pro.
First Understand What Success Looks Like in a Safety Position
A career in safety is unique. Your success depends on a variety of variables. Measuring success is not as straightforward as many other careers. For example, if you code phone applications, then your success largely depends on your ability on being able to code and ship the product you are working on.
Safety is not as straightforward. Sure, technical knowledge is important, but your “soft skills”, such as motivating others, creative thinking, communicating, time management, etc., are often more critical to your success.
There may be quantifiable goals such as lowering total incident rates, lowering worker’s compensation costs, etc., that can be easily measured, but there are many more variables that may be more vital and difficult to measure.
Before trying to be an effective safety professional, it is essential to understand what that looks like. Below are a few examples of what it really means to make an impact on safety, and they are all difficult to measure accurately. You can observe them, but they can be impossible to quantify.
- Employees feel comfortable enough to report safety concerns.
- Employees wear their personal protective equipment (PPE) without having to ask.
- Upper management involves the safety department in major decisions.
Safety culture is a vague and often inflated term, but the above items demonstrate that an organization values safety. These types of behaviors will assist in the ultimate goal of reducing the risk of injury in the workplace. As stated, they can be difficult to measure, but they matter.
As a safety pro, your job is to reduce the risk of injuries, and your success in doing so is going to rely on your soft skills to get buy-in for safety efforts to make real improvements in the company’s safety program.
The Five Tips to Be Effective in Your Role
The below tips primarily focus on soft skills. Technical knowledge and expertise are important, but it is not the end all be all. It is great if you know every single OSHA regulation off of the top of your head, but Google can do that as well. This knowledge is only useful if you are able to communicate to others the importance of following these standards, thinking of creative solutions to work safer in an efficient manner, and getting buy-in from those individuals doing the work to follow these rules.
You could have the cure for cancer, but if you do not have the ability to communicate the cure or the ability to see it to fruition, then that knowledge is ultimately worthless.
The tips below can help to ensure you are successful in your role as a health and safety professional.
Continue to Learn
This first tip is very general. It will also relate to all the other tips below.
It is easy to fall into the monotony of day-to-day life and not push yourself to continue to learn. This tip applies to both in the workplace and in your personal life. If you are not seeking out development or having new experiences, you will not grow much as a person.
By choosing to take time to learn, taking on new responsibilities, serving as a community leader, coaching your kid’s baseball team, etc., you are garnering new skills that will prepare you in your current role as well as future roles you are not even aware of yet. These skills serve you in your personal life as well.
Success is best defined as “the fulfillment of potential.” Sure, you may be doing great in your career or personal life now, but we all know there are areas in our lives we can improve upon. Work towards reaching your potential each day, and the impacts of those efforts over a lifetime are immense.
Get a Mentor
This tip relates to the “continue to learn” tip provided above. You do not know what you do not know. It can also be difficult to learn new skills if you are in the same role for many years, working with the same processes, and working with the same individuals over long periods of time. Seek a mentor with more experience or different skills than you do.
A mentor does not need to be someone who is older than you or who has a bunch of credentials after their name on LinkedIn. This person can be someone who is at a similar level in their career as you, or they may even be younger than you. We all have different experiences and expertise. There are many individuals who you can learn from to speed up your development as a safety pro.
These individuals can also help during tough times. The safety field can be a stressful one, and it is good to have individuals to lean on during those times.
Learn How to be an Effective Speaker
There is no getting around speaking to others when you have a career in safety. You are constantly talking to individuals from all levels of an organization. Even if you are in an entry-level role in your career, this largely holds true.
If you have to speak in front of groups of people at a time, understanding how to communicate effectively is even more important. If you have not had formal training in public speaking, it is vital to seek this training out. Attending Toastmasters is a low-cost but effective way to become a better public speaker.
Toastmasters International, or Toastmasters for short, is “a nonprofit educational organization that operates clubs worldwide for the purpose of helping members improve their communication, public speaking, and leadership skills.”
I have been a part of several Toastmasters clubs throughout the years, and it is a great organization. By completing this program, you will be a more effective speaker. Added bonuses include meeting other high performers and demonstrating to future employers that you are serious about self-development.
Learn How to Motivate Others
As stated above, you can have all of the OSHA knowledge and safety expertise that the world has to offer, but if you cannot get buy-in from others, it is useless. Safety is a people-centric career field. As frustrating as it can be to work with others, it is virtually impossible to get around it in this career.
Being able to motivate others to buy into safety efforts is needed to make real progress in a safety program that is sustained over time. The success of a safety program depends on every single employee choosing to want to work safely each day.
If you are able to communicate and motivate others to work safely, you will achieve success throughout your career. This soft skill is a key differentiator between someone who goes through the motions in their role and someone who is seen as an impactful leader.
Too many professionals, safety or otherwise, earn their college degrees and then never seek out additional training. Designations are a great way to expand your technical knowledge as well as to set yourself for higher-level positions throughout your career.
There are many safety credentials issued by organizations that quite frankly do not matter. I am a big fan of the Board of Certified Safety Professionals (BCSP) designations. The designations from the BCSP are some of the most well-recognized designations that a health and safety pro can get.
That being said, there are several designations that they offer that I do not believe are worth pursuing. Reviewing job postings to see what designations employers prefer is a great way to see what designations actually have value in the market.
I have earned the ASP, CHST, and CSP through the BCSP thus far in my career. I have let both the ASP and CHST go, but I will always retain my CSP. The CSP is one of the highest designations a safety professional can earn.
I have also earned the Associate in Risk Management (ARM) from The Institutes. The designations from the Institutes are worth pursuing if you are a safety pro in the insurance industry.
The Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH) designation from the Board for Global EHS Credentialing is one of the only other top designations a safety professional can earn. This designation is much more focused as far as scope and career options compared to something like a CSP. I do not plan on getting it since I do not want to work in industrial hygiene, but if that is something that interests you, going through the process of getting it is worthwhile.
If you want to be effective in a safety role, you need to continue to grow as an individual. The level of success you will achieve throughout your career depends on it. And by achieving personal success, you naturally will help reduce the risk of injuries and fatalities throughout your career.
Use the above tips as a starting point to gauge how proactive you are already being with your skills. Target your weak areas and push for self-development. Your future self will be grateful.
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